0802-Stress: Models of Causation

Lecture by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. for Year 3 Semester 2 Our Community Session on 21st February 2008


1.1 Stress as a stimulus: The Life change model

Holmes and Rahe (1967) quantified the amount of stress due to various life events. Their work focused on stress as a stimulus. They developed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) that attempted to measure the amount of stress caused by various stressors that are life change situations. They asked a large number of people to quantify the amount of stress they could get from each life event. They then developed SRRS. Examples of this quantification are: death of a spouse 100, divorce 73, pregnancy 45 etc. A major criticism pf SRRS is that the same stressor does not produce the same amount of stress in all individuals.


1.2 Stress as a response: the General Adaptation Syndrome  (GAS)

A Canadian physiologist called Hand Selye in 1956 defined stress in terms of GAS. His research was based on laboratory research on animals and focused on stress as a response. GAS is a specific response to non-specific stressors. GAS has three stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. In the stage of alarm the body prepares for the perceived stress. In resistance the body the becomes physiologically prepared to deal with the threat. In exhaustion the body’s resources are depleted


1.3 Stress a combination of stimulus and response

Richard Lazarus in 1966 defined stress as both a stimulus and a response. He reasoned that stress was not from the events themselves but from how the individual appraises the threat from the event and how he assesses his abilities to deal with the stressful event.



2.1 Definition of stress

Stress is a psychological, emotional, and physiological reaction to a stressor. It is considered part of normal human adaptation if it is within certain limits. It becomes abnormal or pathological in situations of over-reaction such that the adverse consequences of the stress reaction cancel out the advantages. The stress threshold varies from person to person and from stressor to stressor. What stresses one person may not stress another one. The same individual could react to the same stressor in different ways depending on the social and personal context. The underlying cognitive and spiritual qualities modulate reaction to stressors.


2.2 Mention of stress in the Qur’an

The Qur'an has described stress as tightness, dhiiq[1], especially as tightness of the chest, dhiiq al sadr[2]. It also has described stressful life as constricted life, ma’ishat dhankan[3]. The opposite of stress is breadth of the chest, inshiraah al sadr[4]. Stress involves psychological stress, dhiiq nafsi with physical symptoms and signs appearing later. Stress is breakdown of normal psychological equilibrium, i’itidaal


2.3 Causes of stress

Stressful events are traumatic, uncontrollable, and unpredictable. Examples are: trauma, temperature, emotions. Travel is a cause of stress likened to punishment[5]. It is part of human nature to be inpatient, al ajalat fitrat insaniyat[6]. Thus when confronted by a problem that cannot be resolved quickly they become stressed. Life is full of difficulties. Allah helps those in difficulty. He causes difficulty to be removed by ease, zawal al usr bi al yusr[7]. Each difficulty, ‘usr, is accompanied by what makes it easy, yusr[8]. Patience is called for in moments of difficulty. However many people when in trouble forget this and fall into stress.


2.4 Reaction to stress

Psychological reactions to stress is anxiety, anger, aggression, apathy and depression, cognitive impairment. The physiological reaction to stress manifests as the usual signs of adrenaline releases. Long-term stress affects good health.


2.5 Coping with stress

People cope with stress in different ways. Coping with stress may be by denial, projection, repression, rationalization, or reaction formation. The type of reaction also depends on the personality type, spiritual preparation, and experience in life.


[1]  (Qur’an 6:125)

[2] (Qur’an 11:12, 15:97)

[3] (20:124)

[4] Qur’an 94:1

[5] Bukhari K26 B19

[6] Qur’an 17:11

[7] Qur’an 2:185

[8] Qur’an 94:5-6

ŠProfessor Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. February, 2008